Jan. 30, 2016
To the college basketball world, Georgia Tech’s 54-42 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame on Thursday night at McCamish Pavilion probably didn’t raise many eye brows. The margin of victory certainly didn’t.
It may have looked like the Fighting Irish simply made one more three-point shot than they made on Dec. 30, 2015, when they topped the Yellow Jackets by nine on their home floor.
That look would have been deceiving as deceiving as the idea that the 12-point win was easy. It was anything but.
In Georgia Tech’s defense, — actually because of it — the game was much closer. They held Notre Dame to its lowest point total of the season and held the nation’s top three-point shooting team to two three-pointers made.
The problem was that Georgia Tech suffered the same offensive struggles — 22.4 shooting, 15.4 from three (2-for-13) — and so, despite limiting the ACC’s top scoring, shooting and three-point shooting team to its season-low in points, their fourth-worst shooting day (38.9 percent), worst shooting day from three (12.5, 2-for-16), and the free throw line (41.7 percent, missing 14 of their 24 tries) they could not take advantage.
“I thought we did everything we needed to do tonight except for make shots,” said Jackets head coach MaChelle Joseph. “I thought that we did a great job. You know anytime you hold Notre Dame to 54 points you’re doing something right. Anytime you hold them to 38 percent from the field you’re doing something right. It’s just a matter of we can’t shoot 22 percent and win a game. Not in this league. Not against the No. 3 team in the country.”
Thursday night was a frustrating one offensively, for Tech, as even Aaliyah Whiteside, the ACC’s leading scorer was off her game, managing 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting, 0-for-3 from three, 6-for-6 from the line. It was only the second time all season Whiteside scored fewer than the 12 she had on Thursday. The other game came Dec. 18, 2015 against Alabama, when she scored eight but was coming off illness and was less than 100 percent.
“It was just me not making shots,” said Whiteside, who was held 10 points below her season average. “These are shots I take every game. I just have to make those shots. I’ve definitely have to make more shots and lead the team but I think we just have to execute the game plan for the whole 40 minutes.”
Unlike the Dec. 18 game, when guards Antonia Peresson and Ciani Cryor each scored 17 and forward Katarina Vuckovic added 13, with the threesome combining for eight three-pointers, there was no back-up on Thursday. Whiteside’s 12 points against ND not only led the Jackets, it doubled the nearest teammate, forward Simina Avram, who saw her first action in 10 games — she last played Dec. 15 against Prairie View A&M.
“We needed Aaliyah to do what Aaliyah does but we needed somebody else to step up and have a big night as well to be able to beat a team like that.” said Joseph. “I’m disappointed in the fact that we didn’t make more shots.
“She’s been hitting tough shots all year. She’s had two, three people hanging on her and making shots all year. But when she has her off-nights somebody else has to step up,” Joseph added. “Roddreka Rogers and Katarina Vuckovic, who are juniors and seniors, they’ve got to step up and they’ve got to make plays. That’s what it comes down to.”
Joseph also expressed disappointment in the team’s ability to finish the game. The Jackets are now 1-7 when trailing with five minutes remaining and of their six ACC losses, the 13-point loss to No. 14 Louisville and 12-point loss to No. 3 Notre Dame are their biggest spreads.
“It’s not like we’re getting blown out by anybody,” she said. “We’ve been in every game, the last five minutes. It’s just our three upperclassmen, or four upperclassmen have to step up in the last five minutes, like theirs did, and make shots.”
The Jackets slowed the game down with Notre Dame and were within two late in the third quarter, but could not overcome their cold shooting and the Irish pulled away.
“Our game plan was to take people off the boards, stop the transition baskets and make them play in the half-court and control the tempo. I thought we were able to do that,” Joseph said. “We’re not a team that walks the ball up the floor but we did that tonight because we needed to limit possessions. I thought that we did a really good job with that. The key coming into this game was going to be people making shots. We needed somebody to have a big night.”
Whiteside is determined that her off-night was just that — one night and that Sunday against Boston College (3 p.m. at McCamish) will be a different story.
“I’ve just got to show up better for my team,” she said. “I’ll be ready next game.”